Small Island

Small Island

by

Andrea Levy

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Small Island can help.

Small Island: Chapter 41: Bernard Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
By the time Bernard arrives, the entire building is on the verge of collapse. Bernard tries to organize the men into a chain to fetch buckets, but in the chaos no one listens to him, and one man punches him in the face when Bernard tries to grab his bucket. Eventually, a fire truck arrives and its drivers haphazardly try to put out the fire.
For all its claims as a powerful fighting force, the army appears remarkably disorganized in this scene, incapable of even organizing itself to fight the fire. Implicitly, this scene casts doubt on the vaunted superiority of the British forces.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
The barracks, with Maxi inside, is reduced to cinders. Bernard notices local people and camp followers standing around and is furious that they didn’t try to help or bring water. When he sees one man smiling, he grabs him and accuses him of setting the fire or knowing who did. In his rage, Bernard feels that all the “coolies” are out to get him; he tries to beat the man in order to make him talk, but his comrades pull him away.
While Bernard’s grief is justified and sympathetic, he expresses his feelings through rage, violence and prejudice. Bernard’s translation of valid feelings into unacceptable behavior both emphasizes his humanity and separates him from positive characters, like Gilbert.
Themes
Manners and Civilization Theme Icon
Redemption Theme Icon